Puns Galore At The Pantodrome
Jack and the Beanstalk
Newcastle Times Square Pantodrome
Until Saturday 30th December 2017
So, what is it like? The answer is simple. Jack is a very good pantomime. This is Christmas show #11 and we laughed and we laughed. In fact, just like the first time I saw the movie Airplane, I need to watch it again as I missed jokes as I was still laughing at the previous one. A great script performed by a cracking little cast has resulted in a panto that deserves to do well. Surprised? To be honest, we were. But it just goes to show: ‘don’t believe everything you read on the internet.’
Let’s start with the venue. The Pantodrome is set in Times Square next to the Centre of Life. Not so much a tent as a proper temporary building with proper raked seating so you don’t get a view of someone’s head like you might if it was a gym floor. I had plenty of leg room which was nice. The toilets were more in keeping with a decent restaurant (hand lotion indeed!) and the heating was working so well that I was still hot after removing my coat. So far, so good. Hopefully the bar staff will pick up speed too during the interval.
Onto the production. Nice Swan have been putting on panto in Gateshead for some time and we enjoyed Aladdin last year in Whickham. The Tom Whalley script has tried to cram as many jokes and puns in as it could. It is rare for a character to speak without a funny line in there somewhere. My son called the show the funniest one he has seen yet… high praise indeed.
Emmerdale’s Adam Thomas and Sam Glen have taken to panto like ducks to water. Clearly feeding off the responses of the audience they clearly were enjoying the experience. Daniel Mawston was impressive as the panto dame last year and he continues to grow in the role. The fact that these three were able to react in a positive way to any audience reaction or what happened in stage helped make any unexpected event become a moment of positive laughter. This included reacting to a great heckle from a child after the audience were asked to be louder “but they’re all shy” – priceless.
Panto usually has a local element but the local writer has tried to capture the local rivalry more than most. The heroes are Geordies and the giant is a Mackem. Regular reference is made to the outsider status held by Mancunian Adam Thomas too.
Evil duties come from panto regular Stephen Sullivan who courts the boos whenever possible. It is a physical role which Sullivan does well resulting in plenty of reaction from the crowd. He even gets his own song to open the second act which went down well.
Karleigh Wright has stepped in to cover the role of Mother Earth. Her onstage charm quickly won the audience over. She wasn’t entirely off book yet, but she had only picked up the role yesterday. Karleigh worked well opposite Stephen Sullivan in their good versus evil battles. She also gelled well with the good guys when they headed off to defeat the giant too. I’m sure that in no time at all she will have transformed the role into her own.
The bulk of the singing duties are handled by the accomplished Helen Slade as the Princess. Her voice is as good as any we’ve heard so far in panto this season. A number of dancers appeared occasionally and did a fine job when on stage but they didn’t have that many opportunities to dance. In fact unlike some pantos, bulking the show out with too many romantic numbers that make the kids switch off has been avoided.
So were mistakes made? Of course they were – it is panto and that’s part of the fun, especially at the start of the run. It is the way in which cast and the audience responds that helps make the show a success. Daniel Mawston, in particular, was very adept to spot and resolve any situation such as the cars turning circle not quite missing the scenery.
Jack and the Beanstalk is a worthy Christmas night out. Whilst it is a traditional panto, it isn’t stale. It may have old jokes, but they play like panto’s greatest hits. The cast are really engaging and time quickly flies by. The show really cheered my family up. A canny local panto by all accounts.
Review by Stephen Oliver
Tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk are available from www.timessquarepanto.com/tickets or calling 0333 666 3366